When the country was locked down last year, Tony Donofrio, CTO of Veritext estimates that only about 5 to 10 percent of the company’s workload was remote access. Even then, only a handful of them were involved in completely remote involvement, as opposed to a hybrid model with mostly personal activity and one or more other parties joining in remotely.
Today he estimates that 95 percent of Veritext’s work is remote. And while the days of fully removed debris may end as vaccination increases, Veritext anticipates that most of the future work will include at least some level of remote participation.
“Everyone was interested in the efficiency gains,” said Donofrio. “It was great for everyone.” In fact, it is becoming increasingly clear that law firms have succeeded in part by reducing travel expenses during the pandemic. Veritext believes that after the outbreak ends, both law firms and clients will rethink what constitutes a “necessary” expense.
With this understanding, Veritext is working to coach lawyers to operate and thrive in the new normal. Best practices for setting up rooms, minimum equipment requirements, and new mechanisms for distributing exhibits are just some of the hurdles the profession will face. For the latter requirement, the Veritext exhibit sharing tool electronically distributes and tags exhibits to keep everyone on the same page miles away. Or … digital “page”, I suppose.
But even as attorneys get used to long-distance negotiation, a staple of the past remains essential: the court reporter. Looking back, I spoke to Donofrio a year ago – when the effects of COVID were unimaginable – and he made the same point. Having completely removed the procedure, he is even more certain that this is a process that cannot completely remove the human element.
You need a person Some players say, “We can have automatic transcripters” – we didn’t see that as consistently effective. Facilitation, control, legitimacy, independent expert in the process. Audio problems. We still need professionals.
The court reporter trade is certainly going through a difficult period. Veterans are retiring and it is no longer viewed as the permanent middle-class cast it once was. And technology plays a role in that, as advances reduce the volume of work reporters used to have to do – the classic shorthand typewriter could soon be phased out completely – but ultimately, a human still has to be a part of the process. “This whole experience confirmed that,” Donofrio told me.
When we step into this year’s Legalweek, which is being renamed Legalyear – because everything else feels like forever, so why not tech shows – perhaps the most important lesson to keep in mind is that it’s out there There’s a lot of hype going on, but at the end of the day there will always be a need for a real person.
Earlier: Robots do not replace court clerks … Retirement replaces court clerks
Joe Patrice is Senior Editor at Above the Law and co-moderator of Thinking Like A Lawyer. Feel free to send tips, questions or comments via email. Follow him on Twitter if you’re into law, politics, and a healthy dose of college sports news. Joe is also the managing director of RPN Executive Search.